Every movie is a unique universe with its own characters, plot, and conflicts. Some may be tragic and sad while others are funny and entertaining. Movies differ depending on time, country, and genre, so it is practically impossible to say what features make a movie good. Is it an engaging story that grips viewers’ attention? Is it the acting that makes the audience believe the story and sympathize characters? Is it the music that wonderfully complements the visual imagery? Most importantly, are there universal standards to assess movies? In this essay, I try to answer these questions by comparing Hollywood and Bollywood movies.
The first aspect every viewer assesses is the plot. First, it should be believable because otherwise, people would not associate themselves with characters and would focus rather on mistakes and plot holes than on the story itself. Second, the plot should be engaging to ensure that viewers are not bored but immersed into the story. Third, the story should be meaningful, that is, convey some important message and make viewers reflect on it. When applying these criteria to compare Hollywood and Bollywood movies, we can see that the latter are at a disadvantage. Their plots are rarely believable and they focus on entertaining rather than educating. Moreover, Bollywood films involve the same plots over and over again, and they do not aim at surprising the audience (Ganti, 2004). Why bother if people will watch and like them anyway? Hollywood movies, for the most part, try to balance entertainment with meaning, and they are generally more coherent in terms of storytelling.
Another central feature of any movie is endearing characters. They may not be ideal but they have to be attractive in some way to make viewers care about them. Moreover, a good character is someone who transforms though the story under the influence of circumstances. In other words, he/she is not flat but multi-faceted and round. Hollywood movies are famous for creating such characters. Jack and Rose in Titanic, Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, Vito Corleone from The Godfather, and many others have become a part of the popular culture because they are interesting to look at. They may have their flaws and challenges but it is their complexity that makes them so memorable. Bollywood films, however, tend to idolize characters (Ganti, 2004). Their protagonists are less ambiguous and complex, and it is their appearance that matters the most. They use the same jokes and behave according to the established stereotypes and conventions.
Finally, the visual style and music greatly determine the quality of a movie. Even the most engaging story would look dull without the sophisticated presentation, so the sound and image structure are an essential part of a good movie. Although some Hollywood movies, especially action-packed ones, focus on music and visual effects, the majority use the sound and image sparingly, mostly to highlight the main idea. Thus, they are more balanced in terms of meaning and visual effects. Bollywood movies, on the contrary, have lots of music and dancing that make them look similar to musicals (Schaefer & Karan, 2013). No matter what story is presented and what actors feature in the movie, they always dance and sing, dressed in bright traditional clothes.
As seen from my discussion, there are some main characteristics including the plot, characters, and visual effects that determine the quality of a movie. However, comparison of Hollywood and Bollywood movies showed that they differ much in these characteristics. Paradoxically, they are still being watched by millions of viewers, which allows suggesting that any assessment is subjective and depends on the culture and artistic traditions. What may be entertaining for an Indian viewer looks funny and meaningless for a Western one. Still, I believe that there are some universal standards that make a good movie and that a truly brilliant movie speaks the same language with all viewers irrespectively of their age, country, and culture.
Ganti, T. (2004). Bollywood: A guidebook to popular Hindi cinema. New York, NY: Psychology Press.
Schaefer, D. J., & Karan, K. (2013). Bollywood and globalization: The global power of popular Hindi cinema. London, the UK: Routledge.